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how to cue abdominals and pelvic floor in Pilates

How To Effectively Cue the Abdominals and the Pelvic Floor

teaching skills Nov 16, 2016
Q: I'm wondering about effective cues to activate the lower abdominals and the pelvic floor. For example, in Feet in Straps, using cues such as “belly button to spine” or “bring the sit bones together” can create excessive pelvic tilting and/or the rectus abdominis turning into a mountain. Would a better cue be “scoop the abdominals in” or “connect your bottom ribs with your hips”?

I agree that common verbal cues such as “ribs to hips” or “put your suspenders on” can encourage too much spinal flexion. Pooching of the rectus abdominis is really a sign of loss of axial length. So the actual question, in this case, is “How to cue axial length?”

In the example of Feet in Straps, you could try cues such

“Breathe into your back ribs.” or

“Sink your back ribs into the mat.” or

“Widen your back ribs like an accordion.”

Go ahead and try it.

Did it work?

Isn’t it amazing, how we can cue a completely different body part, and get the result we want through a side door, so to speak?

 Related: The Cueing Cure: Dramatically Improve Your Verbal Cueing in 30-Days

To activate the abdominal wall I like the cue you suggested: “Smile with your lower belly.” If this cue didn’t work for you, make sure you explain first what that means. Students are often too shy or polite to interrupt the flow of the class to inquire about something they didn’t understand. For example,

“Imagine your hip bones are the corners of your mouth and you draw a wide smile from one hipbone to the other. Does that make sense?”

If you still see confusion in their faces, try to give them a different image. How about

“Imagine pulling the belly button apart and out to the sides of the waist.” Or one more

“Imagine you could draw your hip bones together into the center of your lower belly."

Regarding pelvic floor cueing, it’s correct that the verbal cue “pull your sit bones together” can also encourage a posterior pelvic tilt. The reason for this is that we often co-contract the gluteus maximus at the same time. The action of the glute max is hip extension and/or a posterior pelvic tilt. So there you have it.

Instead, I suggest you say “Draw your pubic bone and tailbone together (towards the center)."

Interested in improving your cueing? Check out my 30-Day Verbal Cueing Bootcamp The Cueing Cure.


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